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Professional panel discusses decline in news consumption among young adults

October 17, 2014

Even with the news media just a click away, young adults seem to be missing in action when it comes to understanding or even knowing about most important current events and issues.

President of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Paula Poindexter has decided to take matters into her own hands. She has declared Oct. 7 “National News Engagement Day.”

Not only wanting to inform the “newsless” generation, Poindexter hopes to raise awareness on the importance of news to all ages. National News Engagement Day was celebrated at UW-River Falls, along with 41 states, the District of Columbia, and five other countries according to newsengagement.org.

A panel discussion was held in the University Center Riverview Ballroom. The panel included Hudson Mayor Alan Burchill, the Chair of the political science department Neil Kraus, Rich Kremer who is a reporter and host of “The West Side” on Wisconsin Public Radio, and Chad Richardson, editor and publisher of the Star Gazette in Hastings, Minnesota.

Associate Professor in the journalism department Andris Straumanis started the discussion by asking the panel which types of media they preferred using. Most agreed on CNN, Fox, Minnesota Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Radio. The majority of the panel stated that they also use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to get their news.

The group then discussed the apparent decline in news consumption. When asked if he thought there was a decline in news consumption among young adults, Richardson disagreed with previous statements.

“Honestly…no, I think people are just consuming news in different ways,” he said.

He went on to explain how popular his newspaper’s mobile application has been recently, saying that they get hits constantly throughout the day.

Being a radio DJ, Kremer notices that the station will get hits on its website from people that do not listen to the radio shows. Just because they are DJ’s does not mean they are not posting stories online.

“It’s about news with a specialty in radio,” Kremer said.

When asked if the a lack of news consumption is a concern for democracy, Kraus felt that it is indeed a problem.

“There’s no accountability in a democracy if nobody knows what is going on,” Kraus said.

Burchill agreed with Kraus. He gave input on the matter using his point of view as a government official.

“You get how much you put into it,” Burchill said regarding the lack of involvement in the issues in government by its people.

He described journalists as being the “watchdogs for society.”

“They should be asking the right questions,” Burchill said.

Is the media asking the right questions? The discussion turned to the question of how could the media gain back the trust of their consumers.

After a long silence, Burchill was the first to speak. Stating that he didn’t want to offend anyone, he told the audience that he believes there are some lazy journalists out there that cut corners.

He also believed that some news organizations can be slanted at times. They all seemed to agree that it was a good idea to get the news from multiple sources in order to avoid reading something completely biased towards one side. Doing so helps a reader to form their own opinion when consuming news.

“You have to be brave enough to read sources you disagree with,” Kremer said.

The overall consensus on whether or not there is a “newsless” generation seemed to be left up in the air.

The importance of journalism, however, was not disputed. The panel seemed to unanimously agree that journalists have an imperative role in society, and not any less important are news consumers.